Home Away from Home for the Holidays

                                                                         Photo courtesy of Tumblr

When I think about Thanksgiving, images come to my mind of a delicious meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and a selection of pies with mountains of whipped cream on top, among many other tasty things. Around the decorated table sharing this incredible feast with me are the smiling faces of my family and close friends. I’m wearing a dress that’s warm enough to conceal myself from the crisp fall air when we go on our post-meal walk, but loose enough to hide my food baby that will inevitably show up after feasting all day. Then after the festivities are over, the joy only continues with the start of the Christmas season. This is how Thanksgiving always was for me growing up.

Candid of me and some family at Thanksgiving 2015 in Seattle WA.

The past two years have been different… A lot has changed in my life to say the least. I’ve been blessed with an abundance of new opportunities that have taken me to new places and lead me to new experiences. However, as my life has changed so much, so have my thanksgivings.

Some friends from study abroad and I enjoying our Thanksgiving meal 2017 in Aix-en-Provence, France! 

Last year at Thanksgiving I was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence France and having the most incredible semester of my life. The one day where I even remotely wanted to be home in Seattle was Thanksgiving. However, what I was experiencing could not even compare to being home. During the week of this traditional American holiday, my French university provided a Thanksgiving meal for the American students cooked by a local chef. It was also the week that the annual marché de noël (Christmas market) was set up in town. Me and my friends from study abroad were able to enjoy this meal together and observe the festivities along the biggest street in town.

The beautiful Aix-en-Provence

The day after Thanksgiving, instead of doing some black Friday shopping and picking out the Christmas tree with my family, I took a weekend trip to Krakow, Poland and got to see the beautiful Christmas markets there. Instead of Turkey, I was eating pierogis. Instead of hot chocolate, I was drinking mulled wine (note: laws involving alcohol are different in Europe). Study abroad was the biggest, most life-changing experience of my life and in the spirit of thanksgiving, it is one of the things I am most thankful for.

Thanksgiving 2018 in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois! 

This year at Thanksgiving, I was in Illinois with my boyfriend, Amir, who attends Illinois State University. Although I was not with my family, I was still with someone who feels like a part of my family. This was the first time that I could remember that I spent Thanksgiving on the opposite end of the US and to be honest, it was much needed. With everything that happened to Thousand Oaks: the mass shooting Borderline, the wildfires and the bomb threat, and on top of that, being stuck with no WIFI or cable to check on the fires and no home  in state to escape to, I was more than ready to go far away from all of it.  Amir and I spent this week relaxing, shopping uptown, exploring the university that my mom once attended over 30 years ago, and eating lots of good food.

Exploring the University my mom attended and that my boyfriend currently attends

Being in the Midwest during this time of year was honestly very interesting for me. It was almost like the holiday spirit was more alive in everyone we’d meet. The colorful autumn leaves were painting the landscape in hues of maroon, burgundy, and orange- yellow and the historic buildings we passed seemed like they came straight out of a classic novel. We enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal at a friend’s house who hosted a huge event with family, friends and international students It was such an incredible experience to celebrate this traditional American holiday with people from around the world. This experience inspired me to open up my home to international students for meals and holidays so that they too can experience the thanksgiving I always have every year.  We then spent our black Friday taking the train, that was labeled “The Polar Express”, from Bloomington-Normal to Chicago and passing through rural  Illinois. I would see cars driving by with Christmas trees on the top, and houses decorated for the season. We finished the day and are currently spending the rest of the weekend in Chicago where a newly decorated city and lots of fun activities await us.  

Chicago on black Friday 2018!

Even though I’ll always hold the image of my childhood thanksgivings close to my heart, I could not be more thankful for my thanksgivings these past two years. I’ve learned a lot through all the changes in my life and if there’s one piece of advice I could give, it would be do not be afraid to do something different. Just because I spent these past two thanksgivings away from my family and hometown, that does not mean I am no longer close with them. In fact, I couldn’t be closer with my family than I am now, but they are always supportive of what is best for my life and missing the past two thanksgivings with them has turned out to be a better alternative for me. You never know what possibilities are in store for you if you never dare to do something different. Life is short, but thanksgivings are forever.

In Krakow Poland ​November 2017!